Intifada update

Saudi Arabia’s day of little rage
Friday was Saudi Arabia’s “day of rage”, planned for and anticipated for weeks. But, in the event, there wasn’t even a grumble – unless you count the ongoing protests in the eastern province which had been going on for a week.

The protests in the east, where the Saudi Shia minority is concentrated, were mostly to call for the release of political prisoners. However, across the country there was silence. Many were expecting it to be so, but some wonder why.

Two main factors played a role in this silence. The first was the government’s preparation, with the interior ministry’s warning and the senior clerics’ religious decree prohibiting demonstrations and petitions.

During the week there was also a huge campaign to discourage demonstrations. Saudis were bombarded on TV, in SMS messages and online with rumours that the demonstrations were an Iranian conspiracy, and that those who went out in the streets would be punished with five years’ prison and fines in the thousands of riyals.

Finally, on Friday itself, there was an intimidating security presence all over the major cities, with checkpoints on the roads and helicopters flying above. (Eman Al Nafjan)

Inside Egypt’s revolution and the last days of Mubarak
One editor called me recently to ask for examples of over-the-top extravagance on the part of Mubarak’s family and inner circle. He wanted something outrageous, on par with Imelda Marcos’s shoe collection, or Uday Hussein’s bizarre sex parties. There is really nothing to offer on that level.

Instead, Mubarak’s ultimate crime will be treating his people with contempt – openly disrespecting them for so long that many Egyptians lost both respect for themselves and their ability to change anything that was happening around them.

Mubarak’s 29 years in power had a genuinely corrosive effect on Egyptian society and psychology. He took a proud and ancient civilization and presided over the virtual collapse of its citizens’ sense of public empowerment and political engagement. He taught them how to feel helpless, then made them forget they had ever felt any other way. (Ashraf Khalil)

Oman ruler shifts lawmaking powers
Oman’s ruler is granting lawmaking powers to officials outside the royal family in the boldest reforms yet aimed at quelling protests for jobs and a greater public role in politics.

Sunday’s decree by Sultan Qaboos bin Said follows sweeping cabinet shake-ups and promises for thousands of new civil service posts since demonstrations began late last month in the tightly ruled nation.

The decree gives the abilities to make laws and regulations to two councils one elected and another appointed by the sultan. But it is not immediately clear if the sultan would retain veto power. (Al Jazeera)

Yemen police fire on protesters
Dozens of anti-government protesters in Yemen have been injured after security forces fired live rounds and tear gas at demonstrators in the capital.

Witnesses said police and supporters of the ruling General People’s Congress party attacked protesters occupying University Square on Sunday with live gunfire and tear gas.

Several thousand people had gathered in Sanaa early in the day, setting up barricades in an effort to separate themselves from riot police.

Witnesses said most of the wounded were suffering severe effects from tear gas but some were hit by bullets and two of them were thought to be in a serious condition. (Al Jazeera)

U.S. investigates Bahraini security forces in crackdown
The Obama administration has launched an investigation into the role of Bahraini security forces in violent crackdowns on protesters last month, part of a broader reassessment of U.S. security assistance and big-ticket arms sales to long-time Arab allies caught up in a wave of popular revolts.

Antigovernment protesters tried to break through the human wall created by security forces to stop the march held in Riffa, south of Manama, on Friday.

In a March 10 letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who chairs a Senate panel that oversees foreign aid, the State Department said Washington was “investigating the actions of the Bahraini police and Ministry of Interior forces and assessing their conduct in connection with the protests” last month.

In addition, the State Department said “the administration is reevaluating its procedures for reviewing U.S. security assistance and defense sales during periods of domestic unrest and violence and has specifically included Bahrain in this reassessment.” (Wall Street Journal)

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